How to Save on Wine and Wineries with Credit Card Perks
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Holding the right travel rewards credit card can unlock numerous valuable perks. Naturally these benefits tend to revolve around travel, including things like lounge access and primary rental car insurance. However, there are also several more obscure benefits to holding certain types of cards, and today I want to focus on a topic that's near and dear to my heart: wine. How can you save money and take advantage of wine-related perks on credit cards?
1. Wine discounts through American Express Offers
The first way to save on wine is for American Express cardholders through the issuer's Amex Offers. For those unfamiliar with the program, it provides limited-time offers with a variety of merchants on most American Express cards. However, they are targeted and don't always appear on every card (or even for every holder of a specific card). Some recent ones include $200 back after spending $1,000+ with Delta or $80 back when spending $500+ with AmexTravel.com, both of which are still active and will be through September 30, 2016. We've even seen offers for bonus points on Amazon purchases (now expired), so these can really run the gamut.
Because these offers are targeted, the only way to check your eligibility is through your account. Here's how you do that:
- Log in to your account at AmericanExpress.com
- Select the card you want to view
- Scroll down to the "Amex Offers and Benefits" section (below your recent activity)
- Read through the offers on the card, clicking "Load More" if necessary
In addition, many offers require you to actually add the offer to a card in order for it to apply. While you can technically only add an offer once (regardless of how many different American Express cards you have showing the offer), I've read reports of individuals getting multiple discounts by adding the offer to two different cards in two different browsers.
At the time of writing, I see two different offers for discounts on wine purchases: Wine.com and WSJwine. Both of these appear on my American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card, and they both appear on my Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express as well. However, neither offer appears on my Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express.
The first one is for Wine.com, offering $30 off a purchase of $100 or more by using the promo code "AMXWINE30" at checkout:
This offer is valid through the end of the year, though note that your subtotal must equal at least $100 for the discount to apply. In addition, Wine.com has an interesting program called StewardShip, which allows you to pay $49 per year and get unlimited free shipping on your standard orders not associated with a regular wine club. If you're planning on getting three or more shipments, this could be a great value.
In addition to Wine.com, WSJwine is offering a one-time statement credit of $50 when you use your card to spend at least $150. Instead of a promo code, this is actually an automatic discount when you make a purchase, as long as you've added the offer to your card and make the purchase by October 1, 2016. Here's what I saw after I added the offer to my Premier Rewards Gold Card:
Once a charge of at least $150 posts to the card on which you added the offer, you should see a $50 statement credit post fairly quickly. The terms and conditions claim that it could take up to 90 days after the expiration date for the credit to appear, though I've typically had it show up within a day or two.
Just FYI, in my research on WSJwine, I did stumble across a page advertising a special for Amex holders. It sounds great in theory; save an extra $50 on all orders over $125 by entering the code "AMEX140850" at checkout. However, I couldn't get the promo code to stick, and both a call and email to customer service didn't shed any light as to what this page was and why it was out there. As a result, these Amex Offers might be your best bet for now.
2. Chase lounge at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival
Another unique perk offered to holders of many travel rewards credit cards comes from Chase. For those of you who didn't know, every fall brings the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to Walt Disney World in Florida. Since Chase is a key sponsor of the event, it has a lounge for cardholders, including complimentary non-alcoholic beverages and charging stations. The 2016 version of the festival runs from September 14 - November 14, and all you need to do is present your Chase credit or debit card to gain entry. The lounge is open from 11am until the park closes, and you're allowed to bring in up to five guests!
Even though this lounge may not include wine per se, it's still a great perk for theme park guests. My wife and I were regulars at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival before our daughter Evy was born, but Central Florida in the fall can still be quite hot. The lounge offers you a place to escape the heat and relax after visiting one of the 30+ food and beverage stations throughout the park. This is a very intriguing trend from Chase, given that the issuer also opened VIP lounges for United credit cardholders (like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card) to watch the Olympics earlier this year.
3. Discounts at select wineries with Visa Signature and Visa Infinite cards
Another fantastic wine benefit is offered on Visa Signature and Visa Infinite cards through a partnership with Sonoma County Vintners in California. If you carry one of these cards, you're eligible for special discounts at more than 50 wineries in Sonoma. While the exact offers may vary slightly, here's a general overview of what you can expect:
- Purchase 1 standard tasting using a Visa Signature or Visa Infinite card and receive 1 complimentary tasting of equal or lesser value
- Preferred pricing on non-wine purchases over $50, where applicable
- Savings on wine purchased same day in the Tasting Room
- Savings on Reserve tasting or special wine and food pairings
It's highly recommended that you call your desired wineries ahead of time to confirm these benefits, and a handful actually require reservations for tastings. When you arrive, just use your Visa Signature or Visa Infinite card to take advantage of these perks, though you are limited to two tastings (one paid, one free) per day per winery through this offer.
In case you're wondering, here's a sample of cards that fall under these two Visa brands:
- Visa Signature: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Credit Card and the Ink Plus Business Card
- Visa Infinite: Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
While this perk may not be enough to open one of these cards by itself, it can be quite valuable if you're traveling to Sonoma anytime soon.
4. Special events
If you're looking for a more unique and exclusive experience, consider taking advantage of special events. In some cases, these are only available to holders of credit cards, while others are open to the public but provide private events for cardholders. One of the most consistent in this regard is the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card (assuming this sticks around now that the card has been refreshed). At the beginning of this year, TPG himself had a fantastic experience at the Cayman Cookout, a festival that included several added perks for cardholders. Last year, TPG Director of Marketing Kate O'Brien headed west for a Napa Valley wine and culinary experience, an event solely for cardholders. While these experiences aren't cheap, they can be even pricier (if not impossible) to recreate on your own.
Keep in mind that many premium credit cards (like The Platinum Card from American Express) also offer concierge services that can put together unique packages or unlock other perks thanks to the issuer's connections.
5. Bonus points on purchases
A final way to make the most of your wine purchases is through bonus points awarded on certain credit cards. Many cards offer bonus points at grocery stores, a decent spot for wine purchases in many states (though the selection depends on your preferred chain). I like using my American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card at Publix down here in Florida for 2x Membership Rewards points, though you also have options like the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card from American Express (3x Membership Rewards points at supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year) and the Chase Freedom (which typically includes grocery stores in its quarterly bonus categories). The Chase Freedom is no longer open to new applicants.
In addition, you may find that some wineries are classified as "Entertainment" under their merchant category codes, giving you the opportunity to earn 2x ThankYou Rewards points on both the Citi Prestige Card and the Citi Premier® Card. Though not a direct example of a winery, my prepaid tours at the Ocean Organic Vodka distillery in Maui were classified as "Entertainment - Theme Parks" by American Express, meaning I missed out on 22 extra ThankYou Rewards points by not choosing the right card!
Finally, be sure to click through an online shopping portal (like Ebates) if you're making online wine purchases. I typically check CashBackMonitor.com to compare the different portals and decide on the best earning rate. I'm particularly intrigued by the rates offered by WSJwine at the time of writing: 5 Southwest points, 5 Alaska miles or 7 American miles per dollar spent. Not too shabby!
It can be a bit challenging to maximize your purchases on wines and at wineries, but as you can see, having the right credit cards can make a big difference. Whether it's being strategic with your purchases to earn bonus points, taking advantage of limited-time discounts or being informed about the included perks on your cards, knowledge is half the battle, and I hope this post has given you some practical ways to make the most of your oenophile ways!
What are your favorite ways to maximize wine purchases?